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The Lone Horseman
It was NOT a Dark and Stormy Night
In the early morning fog, a lone horseman makes his way down the deserted lane. After riding all night, he sees the familiar fence that marks the beginning of his property. He shifts his weight in the saddle, glad that his journey is coming to a close. All is quiet, except for the Willow Warblers who seem to greet him. Home at last.
However, something is amiss. The fence is broken and the ground churned to deep chocolate mud. Has he been away too long? Where is the herd? Is that large crimson slash in the dirt drying blood? Is it bovine or human?
He pulls up sharply on the reins, and his mount whinnies impatiently, more than a bit annoyed at this delay in returning home to a familiar stall where fresh water and oats await. The rider nudges his horse off the path to take a closer look. Suddenly, the birds stop chirping, and all is completely still. A bright light, many times more intense than the sun, explosively beats down on the scene. No longer curious, he digs his heels into the sides of his steed, and attempts a hasty retreat . . . .
But there is no escape from the stillness-shattering glare. His horse wheels left and right, wildly seeking some refuge from the light, but there is none to be found. Compounding the confusion of both horse and rider, they are suddenly surrounded by a deep throbbing pulse which seems to grow louder even as the light continues to brighten beyond the blinding whiteness of new snow.
As the horse continues to buck violently, the rider is thrown to the ground. Landing forcefully on his back, he is temporarily overcome by the noise and light, and finds himself completely disoriented. He raises his hand to his eyes, and tries to make out his surroundings without much success. In a desperate attempt to regain some control over his fate, he rolls on his stomach, and tries to get to his feet. It is then that he feels something touching his shoulder. Is it a hand? His horse? Something else? He will never know for sure, because at that exact moment everything goes black.
An Unexpected Turn of Events
But he hasn't faded into an expected unconsciousness. Not only is he totally aware of his surroundings in this new blindness, but a sudden feeling of weightlessness lifts him from the impacted ground. It is preternaturally quiet now. No throbbing pulse; no shattering light, not even the song of the Willow Warblers which had greeted his arrival at the fence to his property or the squelch of his horse's hooves in the mud disturb this new silence. Invisible, feather-soft hands, perhaps just their caressing finger tips lift him into the early morning air, where he hovers, surprisingly unconcerned by this latest turn of events.
There, in the remote hills of home, something otherworldly is happening to our horseman. Considering his circumstances, he is feeling unusually calm. No longer hovering, but beginning to move ever upward, he does not struggle. Although he is only vaguely aware, the fog seems to have been replaced by a strange mist which surrounds his body. And even though he just fell from his horse moments ago, there is no pain. Only feelings of anticipation.
This new mist is strangely pervasive. Its tendrils wrap themselves around him much as the silken fibers of a giant spider would engulf a fly. But he has no fear. There is an uncommon calmness as the silent whisper of silky mist increases its enclosing pressure. He imagines himself becoming some kind of mystic chrysalis, an all-encompassing cocoon in preparation for the next stage in this weird journey.
Upward, ever upward, his limp body floats skyward. Then, just as quickly as it began, the rising motion stops and he feels himself being shifted sideways, then gently placed down on a cool, hard surface. He remains relaxed and calm, yet aware. He listens intently for any familiar sounds, since his vision has strangely not returned. Very nearby he hears low, indistinct whispers. There are no discernible words, yet he knows that someone or something is trying to communicate with him.
But communication is a two-way street and he finds himself strangely mute. His mouth opens, his tongue seeks the instinctive positions of letters and words, his breath even vibrates through his vocal chords and against his trembling lips, but it is as if the nature of speech has been changed because no vibration trickles into the atmosphere beyond his mouth. He is talking, but there is no sound! He knows there can be no sound in a vacuum, but if he were in a vacuum, how could he breathe? The soft rise and fall of his lungs gives a lie to the possibility of a vacuum as does the continual susurration of incomprehensible whispers just beside his ears.
Now hands are gently grasping the sides of his head, cupping his ears. He believes them to be hands, although there is no way of knowing for sure considering his current condition. He ceases his attempts to speak, and shifts his attention to moving his arms and legs. Nothing. His state of calm detachment begins to waver. Where is this place? What is happening to me? If someone was trying to harm me, wouldn’t they have done so already? Questions crowd his mind, while the ethereal hands continue to hold him ever so tenderly.
Floating Into Peace or Peril?
To what purpose, this tender constraint? Surely, it can't preface a harmful act, could it? Perhaps it might be meant to lull him into a false sense of security. He can't help but think he has become the prisoner of some alien entity. After all, he is a product of the twenty-first century and he is aware of untold possibilities being discovered each day; and wasn't his youthful fantasies infused by the great science fiction writers of the past century? And...if it is indeed some alien presence which now holds him captive, what would the first thing it would do to him? It would probe. With a growing quiver of essential fear he begins to count his body's vulnerable apertures: one...two...three... Oh, dear God, how many points of possible pain!
His musings are interrupted when he feels something quite unexpected. A prick. Like a very thin needle, first piercing the flesh, then a light pressure, then nothing. He can only assume that it was some sort of hypodermic needle. The floating session that he felt earlier outside of his body is now taking place inside of him. He tries to fight it, clinging to consciousness, until he succumbs to a new euphoria.
His first fleeting thought is thankfulness that he is not being probed in one of the more obvious places. This new and surprising alternative is a relief that quickly turns to a sense of immense wonder as bright colors burst forth beneath his eyelids. The euphoric swell of complete acceptance lifts his mind beyond an ability to define what he is feeling. He is enraptured and consumed by a sensory overload which seems to come from within him.
Images dance through his mind, all in a jumble. Everything seems to be happening at once: Memories from his childhood on the farm, flashbacks of his first time on a horse, recollections of his first rodeo. Then the swirling vortex shifts to the present. Why am I here? What is the meaning of all this? Will I get out of this alive?
Will I survive; will I... Music. He hears music. Because he is so suffused with a sense of peace and acceptance he expects it to be ethereal, celestial, filled with heavenly choirs. But it isn't. Strangely he hears Elvis Presley singing "Blue Suede Shoes." Now drums and a throbbing, wildly strummed guitar fill his head. His hands tremble and he can feel his fingers twitch to the insistent beat. The blood begins to pulse and pound in his veins a quick-time counterpoint. It feels like the first time he'd ridden a bucking bronco before a cheering crowd.
A-bop-bop-a-loom-op a-lop-bop-boom! Without missing a beat, the song shifts from “Blue Suede Shoes” to “Tutti Frutti.” Never having been a Rockabilly fan, he wonders why these particular songs are filling his mind. Is some outside force imposing these melodies into his mind to see his reaction? If this is indeed an abduction, it certainly is not what he expected. If aliens were studying us, wouldn’t they be interested in Mozart, or Beethoven, not some simple tune with a twelve-bar blues chord progression?
The Music Shifts
The sudden shift in music to this new and louder attack on his hearing becomes literally excruciating. He fears for his ear drums and knows that if he survives this new onslaught he will surely require medical attention. He wonders if his possible alien abductors might have a doctor in their midst. As soon as this thought enters his mind a sudden surcease of sound is replaced by a crescendo of silence...then at first softly, then louder and louder the new beat comes at him. He recognizes this melody and automatically his lips begin to form the words: "Ooh, eeh, ooh, aah-aah, ting tang walla walla bing bang. Ooh, eeh, ooh, aah-aah, ting tang walla walla bing bang." This couldn't be his request for a doctor, could it?
“Turn that damn thing down!” Is he imaging it, or was that a human voice he just heard. His normal senses begin to slowly return, and he flutters open his eyes to see a paramedic hovering over him. “I said turn it down, now! He’s starting to wake up!”
Yes, it was not only human, but it appears to be someone trying to help him. “Where am I?” he manages in less than a whisper.
The young man attending to him leans forward and replies, “Try not to move. You took a nasty blow to the head. Good thing a police helicopter was nearby. If we hadn’t medevac’d you out when we did, you may not have survived.”
"How long have I been out?"
"Can't say. We were just returning from a hospital run when we spotted your horse and then you, flat out in the mud. Musta been a rock in just the wrong place and you hit your head--quite a concussion."
"Thank God. I thought I was going crazy or being abducted by aliens."
The young medic has a good laugh over this. "Been called a lot of things in my life, but never an alien."
"Where are we headed?"
"Back to the hospital; be there in a couple of minutes." The cowboy listens to the wop-wop-wop of the heavy blades that lift the helicopter gently down to the landing pad on top of the hospital. Carefully, his basket-like stretcher is lifted from the machine and four scrubs-clad hospital employees wheel him on a gurney toward the waiting elevator. He looks back at the rescue airship with a small prayer of thanks and is surprised to note that the whirlybird is painted a bright lavender-like color. He can picture himself being raised up by motorized pulley into the belly of this mechanical beast and realizes that he had been absorbed into the great maw of an actual purple people eater.